Finding somewhere to hunt can be daunting, particularly for newcomers to the sport, but game birds have an extensive range.
They can be found on lakes, estuaries, rivers, streams, swamps, ponds and drains, and increasingly, mallards and paradise shelduck can be found on pasture, crops and stubble paddocks.
First consider the hunting available in your area:
• Big water — lakes, harbours and estuaries.
• Small water — farm ponds, natural dams, flooded areas.
• Jump shooting — as the season progresses, wary ducks move from major waterfowl areas to take refuge in quieter places. Small rivers, streams, ditches or drains frequently hold ducks at any time of the day. Stalking these waters can provide exciting and productive sport.
• Drift shooting — a quiet paddle or drift downstream in a canoe or dinghy boat can be very rewarding.
• Stubble paddocks — ducks love maize, and when it's harvested they are likely to turn up in numbers to pick up what the harvester has missed, usually in the evening.
• Existing maimai — remember that you can hunt from any empty maimai on public land after 7:30am. After the first week of the season, many good spots are vacant.
The Department of Conservation manages wetland areas, some of which are seasonally available for game bird shooting, throughout the country. To access such areas, contact your nearest DoC office and ask for a game bird hunting permit.
Regional Fish and Game offices have a range of maps and access brochures for hunting on public land, many of which are also available online.
Please note that you still need a Fish and Game hunting licence, and all the relevant licence conditions apply (species covered, bag limits etc).
Clubs and seasons
A club or hunting group will be able to provide advice and entry to good spots. Some Fish and Game regions also run organised hunts from time to time, which can be excellent opportunities for novices to improve their skills.
There are a number of special seasons throughout the country — these are usually short periods outside the main season where hunters can target specific species (paradise shelduck, pukeko) as a means of controlling numbers.
Many farmers are happy to give permission to hunt on their land. Do your homework to find likely areas, and then ask the farmer/s.
Before driving up to the farm gate:
• Take time to consider the burden of trust that you are asking the farmer to shoulder.
• Make contact early in the year and be prepared to come back several times to build trust.
• First impressions count (tidy dress and polite approach).
• Don't ask for it all; often a request for a couple of evening hunts will be agreed to, but exclusive access every weekend will be denied.
• Be clear and honest about your intentions, experience, and who will be with you.
• Stick strictly to any agreement and /or conditions.
• Dogs must have appropriate vaccinations, including sheep measles.
• Accept refusal with good grace.
• Treat the farm as if your livelihood depended on it — the farmer does.
• Don't forget to say thank you for being given access.